N.T. Wright Online’s newest course, The Servant King, is now available to the public. This is new material that has never been the sole focus of a work by Professor Wright. 

I discovered the discipline of practical theology in a when I took a seminary course  ‘Christ and Culture’. We learned that one way any follower of Jesus might do the work of practical theology is to reflect critically on lived experience and the Christian faith. The lasting impressions of the course have continued to fuel my interest in this discipline for years.

In Prof. Wright’s latest course, The Servant King, you will explore very practical themes of human fears and failures and God’s promises of comfort and forgiveness in Isaiah 40-55—what Prof. Wright calls ‘one of the greatest poems ever written’. 

What makes for good poetry? Is it snazzy rhyme and meter, or something else? Perhaps great poetry is also ‘practical” in that it reaches us at the point of our fears, hopes and dreams. 

In this course, you will learn how Isaiah 40-55 uniquely addresses the longings and sorrows that are hidden deeply within every human heart. The good news of The Servant King is for people lacking in hope. It is all about God coming back to rescue and vindicate his people.

Following the introductory section, Prof. N.T. Wright exegetically walks through the ways in which Isaiah encourages God’s people to grasp the big picture—to think about the ways in which God is transcendent and sovereign over the whole world, yet immanent and personal in the person of His Servant. You will learn the great vision of this great poem in four sections:

  • The Royal Servant: God Putting the World Right 
  • The Prophetic Servant: God Promising Redemption and Deliverance
  • The Suffering Servant: God Providing the Forgiveness of Sins 
  • The Servant King in Today’s World

What is This Servant King Like?

In Isaiah 53:1, the prophet asks, ‘Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ This prompted me to reflect on the King of Kings and Lord of Lords at the heart of the Christian faith. Whom do we envisage reigning at the Father’s right hand with all authority and power in heaven and on earth (Matt 28:18)? 

What is he like, the one who rose from the grave, defeating the idols and rising victorious over death itself? Does our vision of the Chosen One match the description of the Servant King the prophet Isaiah predicted? 

How Is the Servant King “Obedient”?

Jesus as the Servant King offered his life of obedience in weakness, humility, and suffering. His way to the throne differs from man’s penchant for vengeance and will to power that marginalizes the weak and oppresses enemies through tyranny. His subversive way of life in the Spirit, over against life in the flesh, transforms the old order of things as he makes all things new: seated on the throne, high and lifted up. 

See, my servant shall prosper;
he shall be exalted and lifted up,
and shall be very high.
Just as there were many who were astonished at him[a]
—so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of mortals—
so he shall startle many nations;
kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
for that which had not been told them they shall see,
and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate (Isaiah 52:13-15).

A Different Kind of Exaltation

Prof. Wright teaches that this is not what people expect the word ‘exalted’ to mean. Indeed, there were many who were astonished at him because his appearance was marred beyond human recognition. You will explore how the prophet’s vision of the lifting up of Christ is nothing other than his ‘lifting up’ on the cross (John 12:31-33).

You will also learn how Jesus as the Servant King challenges the ways in which the nations exercise their power—threatening violence and domination through bullying and oppression. Instead, Jesus says, We are going to do power the other way. 

Jesus says, 'we are going to do power the other way.' Click To Tweet

When talk of Christ meets secular culture, some might not expect Christ’s power done ‘the other way’ to effectively win life’s battle. This course encourages us tho think further about where and how might Christians can engage in the discipline of critical theology, by engaging and reflecting on lived experiences and ecclesial practices, in order to offer the world an alternative (and poetic) vision of the Servant King who comforts, forgives, vindicates, and restores. 

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Jennifer Loop

Jennifer Loop received her MA in Christian Studies from Trinity International University. She is the Content Developer for the Wisconsin Center for Christian Study. With her theological insight and organizational skills, she plays a critical role in online education by guiding the online student experience. Jennifer enjoys engaging with a ‘virtual community’ of diverse students and learners and observing the intersection of theology, faith, and practice.

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